Tree falls, closes Bowmar on second day of school|[08/05/2008]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Vicksburg Warren School District’s first day was deemed a success but things took a turn this morning when a tree fell behind Bowmar Elementary, zapping electricity and phones and causing an early dismissal for the school.

“We are not sure if the tree was just old or if the storm damaged it, but when it fell it took out the major power pole for the school,” Superintendent James Price said, referring to Saturday night’s storm. “With the electricity out it is just too hot for the kids to be in the school so we decided to send them home.”

Teachers used cell phones in an attempt to reach parents, and extra aides were called in to help with the situation. Buses were called in early and aides rode along to help verify each child had an adult in the house before he or she was dropped off.

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“The process will take a while, but it is necessary,” Price said. “We will not leave any children at home without an adult present.”

A local Entergy employee attempted to help the school regain power but could not get his truck around to the back of the school due to a concrete overhang. At late morning, administrators were waiting for trucks from Jackson that were expected to be able to reach the downed lines.

Power is expected to be back on in time for school Wednesday, Price said.

As for the first day of school on Monday, the superintendent said everything went well.

“A lot of parents bring kindergartners the first couple of days and that always causes a bit of a traffic backup with everybody parking along the streets, but that is normal,” said Price. “It’ll get less and less congested as the week goes on and by next week we will begin to settle into a pattern.”

Vicksburg High School also experienced problems in the form of class schedule mix-ups. Letters detailing homeroom numbers and daily schedules were mailed on Thursday, but only about half of the students received them. That created a 45 minute delay Monday morning as administrators handed out classroom assignments one-by-one.

“High school scheduling is always difficult, both at Vicksburg and Warren Central” Price said. “It is not unusual to have kinks in the system that have to be worked out throughout the week. Every year principals and counselors work hard on this, but the way the computer system works makes it hard to get every schedule right the first time.”

Price said this is particularly evident with advanced placement classes, which the computer will refuse to add if too few students sign up, and with study halls, which are sometimes assigned in multiples by the computer in an attempt to get a schedule to work.

“We don’t want students to have more than one study hall, and we especially do now want them to miss out on those upper-level classes,” Price said. “To fix all that, incorrect schedules must be fixed by hand. The process is a pretty massive undertaking but we’ll get it done and accommodate everybody.”

Monday’s start was the earliest-ever for public schools. Vicksburg Catholic and Porters Chapel start classes Thursday.